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    Subject Term: "Tax refunds"

    15 publications with a total of 48 open recommendations
    Director: Jessica Lucas-Judy
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop and maintain an online dashboard to display customer service standards and performance information such that it is easily accessible and improves the transparency of its taxpayer service.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS reported that it is evaluating the data that it can make available online. IRS also indicated that it will include the service standards that taxpayers should expect when interacting with IRS. IRS expects to make this information available online by February 2018.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should review its document retrieval and scanning processes to identify potential training or guidance needs or other potential efficiencies.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS reported that it issued guidance to employees in February 2017 reminding them to follow IRS procedures that require thorough research of information contained in IRS systems before requesting a hard copy of documents from file storage or archives. However, IRS has not completed a review of its document retrieval and scanning processes to identify potential efficiencies. Without this review, IRS is missing potential opportunities to retrieve and scan the documents that employees require in a timely manner.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should revise IRS's notices to IDT refund fraud victims to include information such as (1) whether any dependents were claimed on the fraudulent return, (2) to the extent possible, if those dependents match any of those the taxpayer claimed the same tax year, and (3) how to request a redacted copy of the fraudulent return.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS reported that it will revise its notices to victims of identity theft to include information that will advise them to protect the personally identifiable information of their dependents. The notice will also direct them to revised information and guidance on irs.gov. IRS expects to complete the revisions by July 2018.
    Director: David A. Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help IRS improve its process for determining IT funding priorities and to provide timely information on the progress of its investments, the Commissioner of IRS should direct the Chief Technology Officer to establish, document, and implement policies and procedures for selecting new and reselecting ongoing business systems modernization activities, consistent with IRS's process for prioritizing operations support priorities, which addresses (1) prioritization and comparison of IT assets against each other, (2) criteria for making selection and prioritization decisions, and (3) ensuring IRS executives' final funding decisions on IT proposals are based on IRS's prioritization process.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS stated that it had several process improvements underway that would impact its documentation of policies and procedures for prioritizing business systems modernization activities. The agency committed to addressing the recommendation by December 2017.
    Recommendation: To help IRS improve its process for determining IT funding priorities and to provide timely information on the progress of its investments, the Commissioner of IRS should direct the Chief Technology Officer to modify existing processes for Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and Return Review Program (RRP) for measuring work performed by IRS staff to incorporate best practices, including accounting for actual work performed and using the level of effort measure sparingly.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS reported that it was continuing to examine methods for modifying existing processes to measure work performed by IRS staff for the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and Return Review programs. We are monitoring IRS's efforts as part of an ongoing review of the agency's information technology operations.
    Recommendation: To help IRS improve its process for determining IT funding priorities and to provide timely information on the progress of its investments, the Commissioner of IRS should direct the Chief Technology Officer to report on actual costs and scope delivery at least quarterly for the Customer Account Data Engine 2 and the Affordable Care Act Administration. For these investments, IRS should develop metrics similar to FATCA and RRP.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS began reporting on actual costs and scope delivery at least quarterly using metrics similar to FATCA and RRP and provided the quarterly reports for fiscal year 2016 and the first two quarters of fiscal year 2017 to GAO. As of September 2017, the agency had not implemented the recommendation for the Affordable Care Act Administration investment because it did not see the benefit in doing so given that development work was minimal. We are following up with IRS on this as part of an ongoing review of the agency's information technology operations.
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen efforts to identify and address noncompliance with the EITC, ACTC, and AOTC, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct Refundable Credits Policy and Program Management (RCPPM) to, building on current efforts, develop a comprehensive operational strategy that includes all the RTCs for which RCPPM is responsible. The strategy could include use of error rates and amounts, evaluation and guidance on the proper use of indicators like no-change and default rates, and guidance on how to weigh trade-offs between equity and return on investment in resource allocations.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, IRS is taking steps toward developing a comprehensive compliance strategy that includes the three refundable tax credits GAO reviewed, as well as the PTC. These steps include initial planning meetings with Lean Six Sigma consultants and refundable credit policy and program managers and soliciting volunteers for the teams needed to develop the strategy. GAO will continue to monitor the progress of this effort.
    Recommendation: To strengthen efforts to identify and address noncompliance with the EITC, ACTC, and AOTC, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct Refundable Credits Policy and Program Management (RCPPM) to assess whether the data received from the Department of Education's Postsecondary Education Participants System (PEPS) database (a) are sufficiently complete and accurate to reliably correct tax returns at filing and (b) provide additional information that could be used to identify returns for examination; if warranted by this research, IRS should use this information to seek legislative authority to correct tax returns at filing based on PEPS data.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2016, Refundable Credits Policy and Program Management asked Wage & Investment Strategy & Solutions (WISS) to test the Department of Education's Postsecondary Education Participants System database (PEPS) to match and validate the EINS reported on Form 8863, Education Credits. According to IRS, preliminary assessment of the PEPS database indicates that it is not a sufficiently complete database to confirm AOTC eligibility during return processing or post processing. GAO reviewed the study results and submitted several follow-up questions to IRS in May 2017. GAO followed-up with IRS on the status of that information request in June 2017.
    Recommendation: To strengthen efforts to identify and address noncompliance with the EITC, ACTC, and AOTC, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct Refundable Credits Policy and Program Management (RCPPM) to take necessary steps to ensure the reliability of collections data and periodically review that data to (a) compute a collections rate for post-refund enforcement activities and (b) determine what additional analyses would provide useful information about compliance results and costs of post-refund audits and document-matching reviews.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS raised concerns about the cost of studying collections data for post-refund enforcement activities. GAO recognizes that gathering collections data has costs. However, a significant amount of enforcement activity is occurring after refunds have been paid, and use of these data could better inform resource allocation decisions and improve the overall efficiency of enforcement efforts.
    Recommendation: To strengthen efforts to identify and address noncompliance with the EITC, ACTC, and AOTC, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct Refundable Credits Policy and Program Management (RCPPM) to, as RCPPM begins efforts to track the number of erroneous returns claiming the ACTC or AOTC identified through pre-refund enforcement activities, such as screening filters and use of math error authority, it should develop and implement a plan to collect and analyze these data that includes such characteristics as identifying timing goals, resource requirements, and the appropriate methodologies for analyzing and applying the data to compliance issues.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, IRS is taking steps toward developing a comprehensive compliance strategy that includes the three refundable tax credits GAO reviewed, as well as the PTC. These steps include initial planning meetings with Lean Six Sigma consultants and refundable credit policy and program managers and soliciting volunteers for the teams needed to develop the strategy. GAO will continue to monitor the progress of this effort.
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To further deter noncompliance in the Taxpayer Protection Program, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should, in accordance with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) e-authentication guidance, conduct an updated risk assessment to identify new or ongoing risks for TPP's online and phone authentication options, including documentation of time frames for conducting the assessment

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, IRS was taking steps to assess the risks of TPP authentication options, as GAO recommended in its May 2016 report. According to IRS, the agency assessed the e-authentication risk for the TPP web application based on OMB and NIST guidance. Based on the results of these assessments, the agency stated that officials are working to improve the level of assurance for the web application. In the interim, IRS reported that taxpayers will authenticate their identities by phone or in-person until the TPP web application has been sufficiently updated. According to officials, in February 2017, IRS implemented a new authentication process for TPP's phone authentication. Officials also told GAO they plan to finalize their review and risk assessment of TPP's phone, mail, and in-person authentication by October 2017. Once this assessment is finalized, GAO will review the assessment and determine the extent to which IRS has implemented the recommendation. Conducting an updated risk assessment for TPP in accordance with e-authentication and risk management standards will enable IRS to identify appropriate opportunities to strengthen TPP authentication and prevent IDT fraudsters from passing and potentially receiving millions of dollars in refunds. In addition, strengthening TPP could improve IRS's return on investment for its fraud detection efforts.
    Recommendation: To further deter noncompliance in the Taxpayer Protection Program, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should, in accordance with OMB and NIST e-authentication guidance, implement appropriate actions to mitigate risks identified in the assessment.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, IRS was taking steps to assess the risks of TPP authentication options, as GAO recommended in its May 2016 report. According to IRS, the agency assessed the e-authentication risk for the TPP web application based on OMB and NIST guidance. Based on the results of these assessments, the agency stated that officials are working to improve the level of assurance for the web application. In the interim, IRS reported that taxpayers will authenticate their identities by phone or in-person until the TPP web application has been sufficiently updated. According to officials, in February 2017, IRS implemented a new authentication process for TPP's phone authentication. Officials also told GAO they plan to finalize their review and risk assessment of TPP's phone, mail, and in-person authentication by October 2017. Once this assessment is finalized, GAO will review the assessment and determine the extent to which IRS has implemented the recommendation. Conducting an updated risk assessment for TPP in accordance with e-authentication and risk management standards will enable IRS to identify appropriate opportunities to strengthen TPP authentication and prevent IDT fraudsters from passing and potentially receiving millions of dollars in refunds. In addition, strengthening TPP could improve IRS's return on investment for its fraud detection efforts.
    Recommendation: To improve the quality of the Taxonomy's IDT refund fraud estimates, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should remove refund thresholds from criteria used to develop IRS's refunds-paid estimates.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of October 2017, IRS has taken steps to update its methodology for calculating and reporting its Taxonomy estimates. IRS provided GAO with updated Taxonomy estimates for 2015; GAO is reviewing these estimates to determine the extent to which IRS has implemented GAO's recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the quality of the Taxonomy's IDT refund fraud estimates, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should utilize return-level data--where available--to reduce overcounting and improve the quality and accuracy of the refunds-prevented estimates.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2016, IRS reported that the agency did not agree with GAO's recommendation and noted that the agency does not think that adopting a different methodology for Taxonomy estimates is an effective use of agency resources. According to IRS, the agency established the Global Identity Theft Report (Global Report) as a standardized report that uses return-level data for most of the identity theft protected categories and summary data elsewhere. Further, IRS reported that the agency will continue to improve the Global Report, which will flow into the Taxonomy. However, as we reported in May 2016, by using the Global Report to calculate Taxonomy estimates for refunds prevented, IRS may have overestimated the refunds protected or recovered. For example, electronically filed returns that are rejected are overcounted because the same return can be rejected multiple times. Additionally, IRS already has a count of known and potential identity theft returns in its modeling dataset that the agency could use to help calculate the refunds protected estimates. As of October 2017, GAO is analyzing IRS's 2015 Taxonomy estimates to determine the extent to which GAO's recommendation has been implemented.
    Director: Clark, Cheryl E
    Phone: (202) 512-9377

    12 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The IRS Commissioner should direct the appropriate IRS officials to establish a process to prevent Employment Operations staff from allowing potential employees to enter on duty without favorable determinations of suitability by Personnel Security adjudicators.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In December 2015, the HCO developed a process and revised procedures in an attempt to improve the monitoring of Employment Operations office decisions to reasonably assure that new employees do not enter on duty before prescreening adjudications are completed and approved by Personnel Security adjudicators. However, during our fiscal year 2016 audit, we identified IRS employees who entered on duty without completed or approved suitability adjudication determinations. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The IRS Commissioner should direct the appropriate IRS officials to establish a policy and procedures requiring IRS officials to review and address situations in which it is later discovered that an employee deemed unsuitable for employment during the prescreening process was erroneously allowed to enter on duty.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: While IRS responded that it established a policy and procedures, it did not provide documentation to sufficiently demonstrate that the policy and procedures were implemented. During our fiscal year 2016 audit, we identified an instance where an employee was allowed to enter on duty and it was subsequently discovered that this employee was deemed unsuitable for employment during the prescreening process. IRS did not provide additional documentation to demonstrate that its procedures had been carried out for this employee. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The IRS Commissioner should direct the appropriate IRS officials to develop and provide training, on a recurring basis, to all Facilities Management and Security Services specialists and managers involved in the duress alarm validation and testing process to reinforce the related policies and procedures.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to IRS, in February 2016, AWSS developed and provided training on duress alarm validation and testing to FMSS specialists and managers. However, during our June 2016 field office audit testing, we found that the FMSS specialists responsible for the physical security at the sites we visited had not received training on duress alarm validation and testing. Further, our testing identified instances where (1) duress alarm testing did not include all duress alarms, (2) documented validations of the duress alarm inventory were not completed timely or available to individuals (FMSS and non-FMSS staff) before each test was conducted, and (3) descriptions of the duress alarm inventory used by the security specialist to conduct testing were labeled incorrectly. During follow up discussions with IRS officials, we were informed that FMSS specialists were not fully evaluating alarm test results and adhering to established procedures for monitoring those tests. We will continue to evaluate IRS's efforts to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The IRS Commissioner should direct the appropriate IRS officials to establish and implement a policy requiring recurring training for TAC group and territory managers on their TSRRD responsibilities, including detailed instructions for completing responses to questions in TSRRD and for reviewing TSRRD submissions for accuracy and completeness. This training should be updated for changes in TSRRD questions over time and be provided to new TAC group and territory managers soon after they are hired or appointed.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS efforts to address this recommendation are ongoing. IRS stated that during fiscal year 2017, the Wage and Investment organization will incorporate into the IRM its new training policy requiring training for TAC group and territory managers on their TSRRD responsibilities, including specific instructions for completing questions in TSRRD and for reviewing TSRRD submissions. According to IRS, this training will be provided on a recurring basis to account for changes in TSRRD questions and newly hired or appointed TAC group and territory managers. As these actions occurred after the end of fiscal year 2016, we will evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The IRS Commissioner should direct the appropriate IRS officials to determine the reason(s) why staff did not always comply with IRS's established policies and procedures related to initiating, monitoring, and reviewing the monitoring of manual refunds and, based on this determination, establish a process to better enforce compliance with these requirements.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS efforts to address this recommendation are ongoing. IRS stated that by September 2017, it will determine the reasons for staff noncompliance with established policies and procedures related to initiating, monitoring, and reviewing the monitoring of manual refunds, and based on this determination, establish a process to better enforce compliance with these requirements. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The IRS Commissioner should direct the appropriate IRS officials to enhance the training program provided to COs to address all the job responsibilities related to certifying manual refunds for payment, including the required review of supporting documentation for manual refunds.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS stated that in February 2016, it provided a refresher course to COs as part of their annual training to address their responsibilities related to certifying manual refunds. However, based on our review of the refresher course materials, the course did not address our recommendation to enhance the training program. For example, the materials did not provide guidelines on how to perform the required reviews related to certifying manual refunds. As a result, during our fiscal year 2016 audit, we continued to find instances where the COs did not comply with the review requirements. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The IRS Commissioner should direct the appropriate IRS officials to identify the cause of and implement a solution for dealing with the periodic backlogs of ICO inventory that is hampering the performance of quality reviews.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS efforts to address this recommendation are ongoing. IRS stated that by September 2017, it will identify a cause of and implement a solution for dealing with the periodic backlogs of ICO inventory. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The IRS Commissioner should direct the appropriate IRS officials to establish policies for (1) how long an asset can remain in missing status before it is removed from P&E reported on the financial statements and (2) how long assets can go unverified during the annual inventory process before they are identified as missing in the property management system.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS's IT organization issued AM064, Asset Management Policy Directive to Identify Uncertified Class A and Class B Assets as Missing in KISAM, effective October 1, 2016. The directive states that in accordance with the annual Hardware Asset Management Inventory Certification Plan, assets that are not verified or certified for more than two inventory cycles should be identified as missing in IRS's property management system. It further states that the property management system should be updated by the end of the first quarter of the fiscal year after an asset meets the "missing" criterion. In November 2016, IRS's CFO organization developed the Missing Assets Financial Reporting Assessment procedure, which states that assets in missing status for 1 year or more should be removed from the P&E reported on IRS's financial statements. As these actions occurred after the end of fiscal year 2016, we will evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The IRS Commissioner should direct the appropriate IRS officials to establish and implement procedures to reasonably assure that missing assets are timely removed from the financial statements when applicable.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, IRS's CFO organization established the Missing Assets Financial Reporting Assessment procedure, which included procedures for identifying assets that have been in missing status in the property management system for 1 year or more and removing them from the P&E reported on the financial statements. As this procedure was established after the end of fiscal year 2016, we will evaluate IRS's implementation of this procedure during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The IRS Commissioner should direct the appropriate officials to establish and implement monitoring procedures designed to reasonably assure that the key detailed information for tangible capitalized P&E is properly recorded and updated in the KISAM system.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS's IT organization established SOP FY17-01, Asset Management Program Monitoring and Review, effective October 1, 2016. The SOP details the IRS Asset Management Group's procedures for conducting a quarterly review on a sample of asset records and transactions in KISAM to verify the accuracy and completeness of key KISAM data elements and correct any discrepancies found. In September 2016, IRS issued AWSS-01-0916-0001, Interim Guidance for IRM 1.14.4, Personal Property Management, to require the FMSS territory manager or section chief to perform quarterly sample reviews of non-IT assets in KISAM to verify that key data elements are complete and updated. As these procedures were established after we conducted our internal control testing in fiscal year 2016, we will evaluate IRS's implementation of these procedures during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The IRS Commissioner should direct the appropriate officials to design a process to reasonably assure the adequacy of detailed supporting information for tangible P&E amounts recorded in the general ledger.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS's actions to address this recommendation are ongoing. According to IRS, by September 2017, its CFO organization will implement a P&E subsidiary ledger, and will design and implement processes based on the subsidiary ledger that will reasonably assure the adequacy of detailed supporting information for tangible P&E amounts recorded in the general ledger. We will assess IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The IRS Commissioner should direct the appropriate IRS officials to establish and implement detailed written procedures for calculating future lease payments for noncancelable operating leases that are reported in the notes to the financial statements. The procedures should (1) include steps for considering any ad hoc clauses that may have specific termination dates and (2) include a requirement for supervisory review to provide reasonable assurance of the accuracy of future lease payment amounts for noncancelable operating leases.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In October 2016, IRS established procedures for calculating future lease payments for noncancelable operating leases that are reported in the notes to its financial statements. The procedures included (1) steps for considering any ad hoc clauses that may have specific termination dates and (2) a requirement for supervisor review to provide reasonable assurance of the accuracy of future lease payment amounts for noncancelable operating leases. As these actions occurred after the end of fiscal year 2016, we will evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Director: Jessica Lucas-Judy
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    7 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should clearly define and document: (1) key terms such as "fairness"; and (2) W&I program level objectives, performance measures, and indicators for audit selection to evaluate whether the audit selection process is meeting its mission of applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS told us its definitions of fairness were documented in a policy statement and reflected in the IRS Taxpayer Bill of Rights. IRS said it agrees with the value of incorporating these definitions into its guidance for examiners and that it was taking appropriate action to do so. In addition, IRS said guiding principles for ensuring fairness in tax return examinations had been communicated from the Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement to all Service and Enforcement employees. However, IRS did not provide documentation of this communication. IRS said it will use its definition as the basis of guidance to be incorporated into the Internal Revenue Manual to ensure the audit process supports IRS's mission of applying the tax law with integrity and fairness. IRS did not indicate how it would develop program-level objectives for W&I, as we recommended. Additionally, IRS said many of its existing performance measures provide key indicators and insights as to program performance with respect to fairness, such as the rate of examinations resulting in changes proposed to the reported tax, cycle time for the examination, and yield from the examination. However, as we noted in our December 2015 report, these performance measures focus on audit results rather than audit selection and W&I has not created indicators to evaluate what no-change rate is good or bad, or what rate would indicate fair selections. We will continue to monitor IRS's actions, including reviewing any supporting documentation the agency provides, to determine whether its actions address our recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should clearly communicate these terms, objectives, measures, and indicators to all staff involved in the selection of returns for audit.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said it was writing expectations about the definition of fairness that would be communicated at the beginning of each annual audit selection planning meeting. IRS told us it plans to implement this in July 2017.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should incorporate the new objective(s) into W&I risk assessments done for audit selection processes.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said it would follow the risk process to officially report any risks associated with the outlined expectations identified during the review of the program level objectives, performance measures and indicators for audit selection. This recommendation will remain open until W&I develops program-level objectives--which would be related to its definition of fairness--and incorporates them into risk assessments for the audit selection process. IRS indicated it would implement our recommendation by October 2017.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should ensure that internal control responsibilities are communicated and documented for all employees, including non-managers, tasked with revising or applying W&I audit selection criteria for potential audits.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said that by July 2017, internal control information would be provided in the expectation document provided to each member of the annual audit selection planning meeting and that receipt would be documented.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop and implement procedures to ensure that all criteria or methods used in programs to select returns for audit are consistently documented and approved.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said procedures are in place to document and approve the criteria and methods used in the return selection program. It said it would review these procedures to ensure all criteria or methods used are consistently documented and approved by August 2017.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop and document a clear means for IRS staff members to promptly elevate to top management possible internal control issues related to audit selection in a timely manner.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said it would expand existing feedback mechanisms to specifically cover the audit selection process by July 2017. It is unclear what specific actions IRS plans to take to address the issues we reported in December 2015. For example, we found that the Internal Revenue Manual does not specify how non-managers should report a significant deficiency (such as a problem in the design or operation of an internal control) to the next level of management or that it should be reported in a timely manner. In addition, we reported that the form that W&I staff would use to report such deficiencies in the automated filters used for return selection does not include space for reporting internal control deficiencies that do not have a proposed solution. The form also states that the reason for modification should be self-explanatory, which may not appropriately highlight the deficiency the modification seeks to address.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop, document, and implement additional monitoring procedures to ensure audit selection controls and corrective actions are implemented in a timely manner.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said it has modified Form 14747, Workload Identification Change Request Modification Approval, to document the request and approval for all changes to workload selection tools. Additionally, IRS said it now requires staff to follow the Unified Work Request process to request revisions/additions to certain audit selection rules. The work requests are documented in a database and require different levels of executive review and approval. IRS said the process has strict time frames outlining required submission dates to be followed for changes for the upcoming filing season. IRS also is developing a new section of the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) to document all of the workload selection methods and to change and outline required approval processes used to revise/add selection criteria for correspondence audits -- including the Form 14747 procedures. IRS did not provide a timeframe when this new IRM section would be published.
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve taxpayer service amid declining budgets and increased responsibilities, Congress should consider requiring the Secretary of the Treasury to develop a comprehensive customer service strategy in consultation with the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that (1) determines appropriate telephone and correspondence levels of service, based on service provided by the best in business and customer expectations; and (2) thoroughly assesses which services IRS can shift to self-service options.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, no legislative action had been taken.
    Recommendation: To improve performance management of taxpayer services, the Secretary of the Treasury should update the Department's performance plan to include overage rates for handling taxpayer correspondence as a part of Treasury's performance goals.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2017, Treasury officials told us that they plan to include correspondence data as part of Treasury's fiscal year 2018 annual performance plan and fiscal year 2016 annual performance report. They expect it to be available online before Summer 2017.
    Director: Mctigue Jr, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-7968

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the reliability of Taxonomy estimates for future filing seasons, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should follow relevant best practices outlined in the GAO Cost Guide by documenting the underlying analysis justifying cost-influencing assumptions.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2017, IRS has taken steps to update its methodology for calculating and reporting its Taxonomy estimates. IRS provided GAO with updated Taxonomy estimates for 2015; GAO is reviewing these estimates to determine the extent to which IRS has implemented GAO's recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the reliability of Taxonomy estimates for future filing seasons, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should follow relevant best practices outlined in the GAO Cost Guide by reporting the inherent imprecision and uncertainty of the estimates. For example, IRS could provide a range of values for its Taxonomy estimates.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2017, IRS has taken steps to update its methodology for calculating and reporting its Taxonomy estimates. IRS provided GAO with updated Taxonomy estimates for 2015; GAO is reviewing these estimates to determine the extent to which IRS has implemented GAO's recommendation.
    Director: James R. White
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Congress should consider providing the Secretary of the Treasury with the regulatory authority to lower the threshold for electronic filing of W-2s from 250 returns annually to between 5 to 10 returns, as appropriate.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2017, no legislation has been enacted. Lowering the threshold would help the Internal Revenue Service prevent identity theft refund fraud by enhancing its ability to verify the employment information reported on tax returns before issuing refunds. Additionally, lowering the threshold would reduce the Social Security Administration's administrative costs of processing W-2 information.
    Recommendation: To provide timely, accurate, and actionable feedback to all relevant lead-generating third parties, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should provide aggregated information on (1) the success of external party leads in identifying suspicious returns and (2) emerging trends (pursuant to section 6103 restrictions).

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had taken steps to address GAO's August 2014 recommendation -- including developing timeliness metrics for managing leads and holding six feedback sessions with financial institutions participating in the External Leads Program -- but had not provided documentation that the agency is providing meaningful feedback to external parties. In November 2015, IRS reported that it had developed a database to track leads submitted by financial institutions and the results of those leads. IRS also stated that it had held six sessions with financial institutions to provide feedback on external leads provided to IRS. These quarterly feedback sessions contained various types of information, including overall statistics for the External Leads Program, individual statistics tailored to a specific external party, and solicitations for how to improve the program. In December 2015, IRS officials stated that the agency sent a customer satisfaction survey asking financial institutions for feedback on the external leads process and was considering other ways to provide feedback to financial institutions. In August 2016, an industry group representing financial institutions reported that IRS had not begun providing meaningful feedback to financial institutions that are providing leads to IRS. In March 2017, IRS officials told us they were holding more frequent, monthly, feedback sessions with financial institutions. GAO will follow up with financial institutions to understand the extent to which IRS's feedback has been timely and is actionable. Without accurate, timely, and actionable feedback, the more than 600 external parties participating in the External Leads Program do not know if the leads they provide to IRS are useful and they may not be able to assess their success in identifying identity theft refund fraud or improve their detection tools.
    Recommendation: To provide timely, accurate, and actionable feedback to all relevant lead-generating third parties, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop a set of metrics to track external leads by the submitting third party.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had taken steps to address GAO's August 2014 recommendation --including developing timeliness metrics for managing leads and holding six feedback sessions with financial institutions participating in the External Leads Program -- but had not provided documentation that the agency is providing meaningful feedback to external parties. In November 2015, IRS reported that it had developed a database to track leads submitted by financial institutions and the results of those leads. IRS also stated that it had held six sessions with financial institutions to provide feedback on external leads provided to IRS. These quarterly feedback sessions contained various types of information, including overall statistics for the External Leads Program, individual statistics tailored to a specific external party, and solicitations for how to improve the program. In December 2015, IRS officials stated that the agency sent a customer satisfaction survey asking financial institutions for feedback on the external leads process and was considering other ways to provide feedback to financial institutions. In August 2016, an industry group representing financial institutions reported that IRS had not begun providing meaningful feedback to financial institutions that are providing leads to IRS. In March 2017, IRS officials told us they were holding more frequent, monthly, feedback sessions with financial institutions. GAO will follow up with financial institutions to understand the extent to which IRS's feedback has been timely and is actionable. Without accurate, timely, and actionable feedback, the more than 600 external parties participating in the External Leads Program do not know if the leads they provide to IRS are useful and they may not be able to assess their success in identifying identity theft refund fraud or improve their detection tools.
    Director: Clark, Cheryl E
    Phone: (202)512-9377

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the appropriate IRS officials to perform a risk assessment to determine the appropriate level of Integrated Data Retrieval System (IDRS) access that should be granted to employee groups that handle hard-copy taxpayer receipts and related sensitive taxpayer information as part of their job responsibilities.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to IRS, a risk assessment was performed to determine the appropriate level of IDRS access that should be granted to employee groups that handle hard-copy taxpayer receipts and related sensitive taxpayer information as part of their job responsibilities. However, during our fiscal year 2016 audit, we identified a group of employees at an SCC who handle hard-copy taxpayer receipts and related sensitive taxpayer information and can make adjustments to taxpayer accounts. Based on the information obtained, it is unclear whether the risks associated with these employees were considered in a risk assessment. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the appropriate IRS officials to, based on the results of the risk assessment, update the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) accordingly to specify the appropriate level of IDRS access that should be allowed for (1) remittance perfection technicians and (2) all other employee groups with IDRS access that handle hard-copy taxpayer receipts and related sensitive information as part of their job responsibilities.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As a result of its risk assessment efforts thus far, IRS updated the IRM to restrict the use of certain IDRS command codes for remittance perfection technicians. In addition, in May 2016, IRS reassessed the risks at its TACs, including the specific risks and mitigating factors associated with allowing TAC employees to process taxpayer remittances and to adjust taxpayer accounts. However, IRS did not update the IRM to reflect the conclusions from the risk assessment related to TAC employees. Further, during our fiscal year 2016 audit, we identified a group of employees at an SCC who handle hard-copy taxpayer receipts and related sensitive taxpayer information and can make adjustments to taxpayer accounts. Based on the information obtained, it is unclear whether the risks associated with these employees were considered in a risk assessment. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the appropriate IRS officials to establish procedures to implement the updated IRM, including required steps to follow to prevent (1) remittance perfection technicians and (2) all other employee groups that handle hard-copy taxpayer receipts and related sensitive information as part of their job responsibilities from gaining access to command codes not required as part of their designated job duties.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As a result of its risk assessment efforts thus far, IRS updated the IRM to include procedures to restrict the use of certain IDRS command codes for remittance perfection technicians. However, the IRM has not been updated based on the results of the risk assessment related to TAC employees and, if applicable, other employees who have access to sensitive command codes and handle hard-copy taxpayer receipts and related sensitive information as part of their job duties. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue should take the following action outline a strategy that defines appropriate levels of telephone and correspondence service and wait time and lists specific steps to manage service based on an assessment of time frames, demand, capabilities, and resources.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS has made progress in developing a customer service strategy with defined appropriate levels of service and steps needed to provide such service, as we recommended; however, as of March 2017, IRS has not completed its efforts. In December 2015, concerned that the Department of the Treasury and IRS did not believe they needed to develop a comprehensive customer service strategy, we suggested that Congress consider requiring Treasury to develop such a strategy in consultation with IRS that would, among other things, determine appropriate telephone and correspondence levels of service. This includes establishing a customer service standard and identifying the resources required to achieve that standard. Taking these steps would increase transparency and help IRS communicate its resource needs, while helping Congress make more informed decisions about IRS's budget. In February 2016, IRS announced a "Future State" vision for agency-wide operations, which aims to improve services across different taxpayer interactions such as individual online account assistance, exams, and collections. In December 2016, IRS reported that it had undertaken a study on benchmarking its telephone performance against the best in the business, which we are currently reviewing. It also reported that many of our taxpayer service-related recommendations will ultimately be incorporated into IRS's Future State initiative. In November 2016, IRS provided documentation on the goals of the initiatives, which included goals on improving taxpayer service. However, this documentation does not include specific numerical targets that IRS expects to achieve for those goals. We will continue to assess this initiative as IRS works to develop it. However, it is unclear the extent to which and when our recommendations will be fulfilled by IRS's initiative. We maintain that Treasury should develop a comprehensive strategy in consultation with IRS which would enable IRS to make a more informed request to Congress about resource requirements needed to deliver specific levels of service. Finalizing a long-term comprehensive strategy will help ensure IRS is maximizing the benefit to taxpayers and possibly reduce costs in other areas, such as for IRS's telephone operations.
    Director: Clark, Cheryl E
    Phone: (202)512-9521

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of IRS should direct the appropriate IRS officials to, once IRS identifies the control weaknesses that result in inaccuracies or errors that affect the financial reporting of unpaid tax assessments, implement control procedures to routinely prevent, or to detect and correct, such errors.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS created a long-term corrective action plan that contains specific actions to improve control procedures to prevent or detect errors. While IRS completed some actions during fiscal year 2016, it has not completed most of the actions in the plan or documented milestones or target completion dates for these remaining actions. In addition, during fiscal year 2016, GAO and IRS continued to identify misclassified unpaid assessments that resulted from inaccuracies or errors in taxpayer accounts. Thus, IRS's actions to date have not been effective at fully addressing the issues that continue to cause a lack of transaction traceability and material inaccuracies produced by the subsidiary ledger. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-5594

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Congress may wish to consider providing IRS with math error authority (MEA) to use prior years' tax return information to automatically verify taxpayers' compliance with the limit on the number of years the Hope credit can be claimed.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 3, 2017, Congress has not provided IRS with math error authority (MEA) to use prior years' tax return information to automatically verify taxpayers' compliance with the limit on the number of years the Hope Scholarship Credit, now known as the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) can be claimed. The AOTC can be claimed by taxpayers for qualified tuition and related expenses for 4 years of postsecondary education. Under the Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015, IRS was granted MEA to disallow a claim for the AOTC if the taxpayer is not permitted to claim the credit due to prior fraudulent or reckless claims, or if the taxpayer omitted information relating to prior improper claims of the credit. IRS does not have authority to automatically deny an AOTC even if the taxpayer claims the credit for more than the 4 allowable years. GAO has in the past provided technical assistance to the House Solutions Caucus in drafting legislative language for a bill on extending MEA to use prior years' returns for verifying compliance with limits on the credit. In addition, the Administration has for many years included a revenue proposal in Treasury's Green Book to provide IRS with "correctable error authority" where the (1) information provided by the taxpayer does not match the information contained in government databases, (2) taxpayer has exceeded the lifetime limit for claiming the credit or deduction, or (3) taxpayer failed to include proper documentation with his or her return. If this revenue proposal was enacted, IRS would have the authority to deny claims for the AOTC if the taxpayer has already received the credit for 4 years.
    Director: Clark, Cheryl E
    Phone: (202)512-9521

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The IRS should direct the appropriate IRS officials to establish procedures requiring that each physical security analyst conduct a periodic documented review of the Emergency Signal History Report and emergency contact list for its respective location to ensure that (1) appropriate corrective actions have been planned for all incidents reported by the central monitoring station and (2) the emergency contact list for each location is current and includes only appropriate contacts.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS's efforts to address this recommendation are ongoing. In August 2016, IRS updated the IRM to require that (1) corrective actions are planned for all incidents reported by the central monitoring station and (2) the emergency contact list for each location is current and includes only appropriate contacts. IRS stated that in fiscal year 2017 it will update procedures and provide training to employees to help ensure that the updates to the guidance are communicated to affected employees. We will continue to evaluate IRS's corrective actions during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-5594

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Given the potential for improving compliance now and in the future, Congress may wish to provide IRS with the authority to use math error checks to identify and correct returns with ineligible (1) IRA "catch-up" contributions, and (2) contributions to traditional IRAs from taxpayers over age 70-1/2.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2017, the Congress has not provided IRS with the math error authority to ensure that taxpayers comply with certain catch-up and contributions requirements.